Sunday, February 26, 2023

Isochain 6x6: Week 7

New simple shoulder mobility exercise from GMB Fitness.

After I complete this 8-week block of Isochain 6x6 training, I want do to training block of Easy Muscle, Schedule A. This is the schedule in which only the clean-and-press is practiced. So, I have been pondering how to get ready for Schedule A. One idea was to spend 2-4 weeks practicing the kettlebell clean with single and double kettlebells. Then I thought of practicing single KB cleans whenever I take a break from work, one set of 3-5 reps on one arm, then a set on the other arm.

Wednesday was when I tried practicing KB cleans for the first time in a while. My right knee hurt a bit, then I realized I needed to straighten my legs and squeeze my butt and abs when the KB is in the rack position. I was allowing the knees to bend in the KB rack position, which is no bueno.

I did GMB Mobility sessions on Tuesday and Thursday. The focus areas were spine and shoulders. On Thursday, I also continued practicing single KB cleans. By paying attention to standing up with the legs straight in the rack position and the glutes squeezed, my knees did not feel pain. I also tried walking in the double KB rack position

My Isochain 6x6 last-rep max numbers were down on the Friday session. I can't really tell if it's because I played too much with the KBs on the previous day, or if it's because I did not have a good night's sleep, or if it's just the normal down-and-up progression. In strength training, progress is rarely linear. We tend to go up and down in performance from day to day, although the general trend over the course of a few weeks tends to be up, barring the onset of disease or other unfortunate event.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Isochain 6x6: Week 7 1-rep Max Testing

Results in pounds:

Zercher Squat - 189.0666

Another big jump in the Zercher Squat. Part of it has been allowing my elbows to be in contact with the insides of my thighs, which probably introduced a leverage advantage.

Shoulder Press - 64.4666
Only about a 2 pound improvement over the previous 1RM test, but it's enough to increase my target load from 44 lbs. to 45.

Seated Row - 145.7333

This is a drop from the previous 1RM of 159.4, but I mixed up my Zercher Squat and Seated Row scores during the previous 1RM. This time I'm confident there's no confusion. Working at a higher target load due to the mixed up number didn't seem to hurt, but I think it'll be good to be follow the proper protocol again.

I then did some test reps of the overhead press with single 16kg kettlebell, then double KBs. The shoulder wasn't entirely pain free, but it was a slight, dull pain rather than a sharp sensation. I did not have the mobility to achieve full lockout on the double-KB press, so I felt even less pain in the shoulder. I was hoping to gain the mobility for full lockout via the mobility exercises I've been doing, but for hypertrophy training under Easy Muscle, not having full lockout will probably be ok. I was not able to do full ROM chinups the first time I worked through Easy Muscle, yet I still recorded hypertrophy gains. So while full ROM would probably deliver the most gain in muscle size, partial ROM will still deliver gains.

I then practiced another GMB Mobility session, which focused on the hips, then did the Rib Grab and Brettzel stretches to keep working on the mobility for double-KB press. I also tried to hang from rings, which is the most obvious stretch for improving mobility for lockout in the double-KB press, but the shoulder was still not feeling good enough for that.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Isochain 6x6: Week 6

During this 8-week training block that I've scheduled for the 6x6 routine, I've been testing my 1-rep max every 2 weeks. Thus, this training block can be thought of as 4 2-week mini-blocks.

Thus, the Friday session was the last session of the latest mini-block. My best gain from this mini-block was in the Zercher Squat, where I beat my official 1-rep max two sessions in a row to end the mini-block.

I didn't beat my 1RM in the Shoulder Press, but my last-rep max force was consistently higher in Week 6 than it was in Week 4. I'm satisfied with this progress.

My performance in the Seated Row has been the least consistent. I'm not concerned though, because I don't have any particular goals in 2023 regarding pulling strength. I figure my pulling strength will improve sooner or later.

I continued practicing GMB Mobility on my recovery days. My shoulder felt very slightly irritated by the Bear, Monkey, and stretches involving reaching with the arm, but no sharp pain. I also struggled to put my hand on my back for quadruped torso rotation. But in general the shoulder feels 80% of the way back to the pain-free mobility I used to have with it.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Isochain 6x6: Week 5

For the Wednesday session, my last-rep max force numbers in the Shoulder Press and Seated Row were down, compared to the last session before the 1-rep max test session. I kind of expected this because the Monday 1RM test results, resulted in higher target loads, which meant I would have to exert more force to trigger the Isochain bar's beeper, as well as keep it beeping. I'm not strong at overhead pressing, so even a just a 2 lb. increase in target load requires noticeably more effort. The Seated Row target load increased by 12 lbs. It makes sense that I needed to work harder in the Seated Row, and thus by my last rep, I didn't have much left in the tank to produce as much force as last week. My Zercher Squat last-rep max though was higher than the Friday session. Maybe it was because my body was starting to acclimate to the new foot positioning.

I finished the week strong, literally. My Zercher Squat last-rep max was 11 lbs. higher than the Wednesday session's. I hit 59.6 lbs. in the Shoulder Press, which is a new PR for a regular (non-testing) training session. My Seated Row last-rep max jumped 17 lbs.

I'm happy with the strength gains for this week, but have enough experience to not expect similarly high force readings on the next 6x6 session. All I have to do is keep showing up for training sessions. I know the strength gains will come, maybe not the next day or even the day after that, but over the course of a week or two, the gains usually come.

My neck has been feeling so aore that Manly Mobility sessions have gotten more uncomfortable. There's a lot of head nods and side-to-side neck rotations in Manly Mobility. I decided to practice GMB Mobility again. I like the "mobility for people who hate to stretch" aspect of Manly Mobility, but the neck soreness is just too annoying. I don't know what caused the neck soreness, but eliminating the side lying parts of Manly Mobility would eliminate one possible cause.

I suspect GMB changed something in GMB Mobility, compared to the last time I worked through that program. I seem to recall Session 1 having more stretches to try out. I also don't remember the Bear and Monkey - 2 locomotion exercises also featured in GMB Elements - being part of Session 1. The Prepare exercises looked familiar, as well as the Sumo Frogger. Session 2 focused on side bending, but also included the 3 "animal" exercises.

One issue I had was with the wrist stretch with the fingers pointing to the rear. It was quite uncomfortable for my still-recovering right shoulder. My solution was to place my right plam on the floor next to my knee, then work into the stretch with gentle back-and-forth movement. I eventually put my left palm on the floor to stretch both wrists.

My goal is to have the mobility to double-press my 16kg kettlebells. I am hoping that GMB Mobility will help me reach that goal. I also practiced the Rib Grab and Brettzel stretches with are recommended for helping achieve this specific mobility. I'll probably keep practicing the Brettzel as a finishing stretch on my mobility days.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Isochain 6x6: Week 5 1RM Testing

Results in pounds:

Zercher Squat - 153.4

Despite the recent, Brett Jones-inspired, change in foot positioning to turning the feet out more, and the dip in performance that followed, the result still showed a jump from the previous 1RM of 127.333

Shoulder Press - 62.46666
My last-rep max scores for most of last week were just under 52 lbs. so I wasn't anticipating this score, which is an improvement over the previous 1RM of 59.333.

Seated Row - 159.4

Another big jump, from the previous 1RM of 137.3. I believe a lot of this is the increased confidence that nothing bad will happen to my low back no matter how hard I pull.

Monday, February 06, 2023

Isochain 6x6: Week 4

I bought Brett Jones' video course Iron Cardio, because it was on sale for about $20. I'm in the middle of the 6x6 program on the Isochain so I don't plan to try the Iron Cardio right now. However, I'm trying to get my Zercher Squat on the Isochain close to how I would do a kettlebell goblet squat, so I watched the KB goblet squat lesson in Iron Cardio. Brett Jones teaches a "lock and rock" drill, which has the hips set the foot position, so that the range of motion of the hips is optimized for the squat. Brett states that this protects the low back. So I tried using the lock and rock to find my new foot position, and spent the rest of the week training the Zercher squat out of the new position. My feet were turned out more than before. My force numbers went down, but I didn't feel it in my low back either. I haven't been feeling low back pain with my previous, closer to parallel foot positioning, but I did feel a bit of soreness. After switching to the Brett Jones recommended foot positioning, I haven't feel any low back soreness at all, during training or the day after.

On the Shoulder Press, I hit a high of 57.8 lbs, then logged the more usual 51-52 lb. range max force readings

I made the steadiest gains in the Seated Row.

Friday, February 03, 2023

Isochain 6x6: Week 3

I observed good progress in the Zercher Squat and Seated Row.

I did not observe as much progress in the Shoulder Press, though forgetting to switch on Timer mode in the Isochain on my last rep for the Friday session did not help, as I wasted effort trying to get the beeper to start. I'm not worried about it, because progress has always been slowest for me when I can't exert at least 110 lbs. of force. As previously noted, about 110 lbs. of force is needed to start stretching the Isochain spring. In turn stretching the spring turns off cortical inhibition, which is the "brakes" that the CNS (central nervous system) puts on the muscles if it does not believe the load is movable. The stretching of the spring convinces the CNS that the load is moveable, or "live", so that cortical inhibition is turned off, and thus the muscles are allowed to generate more force.